Friday, September 13, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Aka Back in the Computer Chair Again

Western Saddle by ScotSXC

Summer vacations are over (I say as look out on the Gulf of Mexico from a south Florida beach), the kids have gone back to school, and it’s time to get back to that unfinished book (not to imply that summertime activities aren’t work — they’re just different work).

Okay, maybe your summer didn’t go quite that way. Still, the season’s changed routine often plays havoc with a writer’s schedule — especially if that writer has children at home or grandchildren who come to visit, to say nothing of also holding down a part-time or fulltime job. For those of us who exchanged the rigors of daily writing for fun in the sun (or some variation thereof), we may find our neglected manuscripts crying out for attention. So this isn’t a complaint about disrupted writing times, but rather a discussion of how to get back in the groove.

One of the best places to start is a total reread of the manuscript. It’s amazing how many details of our own stories we forget when we’ve been AWOL for even a short time. We will likely find a surprising number of errors and shortcomings to fix that will pull us back into the writing mode and spearhead a surge of enthusiasm for our project. Unfortunately, this will not come without pitfalls. Life gets in the way. Kids need a ride to soccer practice. Preschoolers catch chickenpox from older siblings. Extracurricular activities require transportation to and from, and the list goes on.

Another good way to return to the zone involves reading someone else’s book. For me, that’s a surefire kick in the writing backside. All I have to do is start the first chapter of a favorite author’s book, and my fingers itch to get back on the keyboard and pound out my own story.

Yet a third method invokes both sight and sound, as in a great movie like Letters to Juliet. (Yes, I’m a pushover for a sweet love story, especially when it involves those of us on the downside of middle age.)

What inspires you to knuckle down when you’ve been out of the groove for a while? Do you have a little trick or two that put you back on track? If so, please share it with us.



Linda Lane writes, edits, and mentors writers who want to learn to write effectively and well. Visit her and her editing team at DenverEditor.com

16 comments :

  1. I like to read the movie blurbs in the TV guide for a quick burst of inspiration. It usually gets me thinking of how my book might be blurbed as a movie, which gets me thinking about the plot, which... excuse me, gotta go write :-)

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    1. I always like to think my story might find its way to the silver screen. While this may not be outright inspiration for me (and qualifies more as wishful thinking than reality), it redirects me to the writing path from which I tend to stray.

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  2. I have a little chat with myself. "You don't care about being famous. You aren't going to get rich. No one would blame you, given your health, if you just sat on the couch all day and read good books. So do you want to do this thing or not? If not, then toss all these piles of silly stuff and go enjoy the sunshine and a good book. If so, then get off your bum and get busy. You accumulated this research for a reason. Don't let it go to waste. You know how you hate waste." :)

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    1. This is so true, Diana. In the end,it boils down to determination and dedication.

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  3. Hunger tends to inspire me to knuckle down ... although, it's not always as effective as you might imagine ... having to overcome an equally powerful inspiration ... sloth.

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    1. Hunger is a powerful incentive, Christopher. Unfortunately, my waistline shows the result of responding too often to the hunger call. :-)

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  4. If I let my manuscript sit for a few days, I can go back to it and see it with "new" eyes. When I re-read it, I read it slowly so I don't skip over things that need to be corrected or changed or elaborated on. Putting a bit of time between me and my work seems to help.

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  5. Those "new eyes" are worth their weight in gold, aren't they, Helen? I'm always amazed at the number of errors I find when I let my story get cold and then reread it. That puts me in fix-it mode, which gets the writing process going full speed ahead.

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  6. I totally agree that you have to back up and read your work again--if not the entire MS, then at least the last several chapters. One other thing that helps me is to do critiques for my crit partners. Although it's not "my" book, it gets me into a more critical thinking mode.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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    1. You're absolutely right, Terry. When we evolve from thinking every word we write is sheer genius to being able to kill our darlings for the good of the book, we have learned the value of critical thinking.

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  7. Great post, Linda!

    I definitely go back and do rereads of my manuscript and read others' works. I also go back to preliminary work, like character sketches, just to have conversations with them, get them back into my writing blood.

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    1. It's not difficult to get back in the groove if we just make that first move. And isn't it interesting how something as simple as renewing our acquaintance with our characters can put us right on track?

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  8. After a (long) break, I'm all in favour of the MS re-read, from start to finish. I always discover a surprise or two (or three).

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    1. Yes, we do find amazing surprises during a reread, good as well as bad. Sometimes it's a "wow -- did I really write that" moment. :-)

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  9. This is a great post Linda, sorry I missed it on posting day!

    Some of the methods I use that aren't already listed are journaling in my character's voice—or, even better, a non-POV character's voice; writing "about" what is going on in the story and then taking off when I get my groove back; or in the case of "next-chapteritis," go back and rip off the last chapter a little earlier and see if that doesn't prime the pump for the next. I'l also pick an emotional turning point and shoot for that.

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    1. Great suggestions, Kathryn! Because we're all different, it's a huge bonus to have a well-filled bag of writing-inspiration tools at our disposal.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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